Faith Within Reason: The Closed Minds of Free Thinkers

So one of the most hilariously mislabeled groups of all time are the “Free Thinkers.” You may know them by different labels, but the best way to identify a “free-thinker” is that they will deny any claim that cannot be backed up by empirical evidence. So heavily confined to their own logic are they that the will outright deny any reality that contradicts their ability to comprehend and logically sort out. Free Thinking is ironically one of the most binding, limiting, restraining, and mentally crippling schools of though. I can hardly think of a more close minded view than the one that says “If I cannot understand, it cannot be so.” This worship and deifying of the human mind is not only limiting in its ability to fully appreciate and comprehend life, but it is also extremely (and ironically) un-logical in its approach to denying the miraculous.

I always come across the same two arguments when ever I find myself in a discussion with a free-thinker. They love these arguments wield them like faith smashing sticks ready to bludgeon any feeble religious mind they come across. It is always kind of humorous to see these arguments flipped on their head and see their own weapons of choice used to poke holes in their own philosophy. Let me explain:

Argument 1: 

  • Premise: Those that testified to the miracles in scripture are unreliable because they are superstitious and unscientific.
  • Reasoning: They are superstitious an unscientific because they attest to miracles.
  • The Problem: If testifying to a miracle disqualifies one form being credible, how then could one credibly attest to a miracle if one were encountered?

In case that didn’t make sense, the “free-thinker” who uses these arguments to deny the miraculous creates a circular vacuums that makes it impossible for anyone to ever attest to a miracle. Testifying to a miracle makes you lose credibility, therefore no one can credibly attest to a miracle. This is not a very open-minded approach to the proposed question of miracles because it already presupposes that the denier is correct and that the one making the claim is false, as well as setting up a fallacy in which the one making the claim can never move around. It is really only a few steps above sticking your fingers in your ears and saying “I’m not listening because you are stupid and I am not.”

Counter Argument 1: 

  • Premise: Those that testified to love are unreliable because they are superstitious and unscientific.
  • Reasoning: They are superstitious an unscientific because they attest to love.
  • The Problem: If testifying to love disqualifies one form being credible because these properties cannot be empirically tested, how then could one credibly attest to love for those who have  never encounter it?

You see, there are many things in life from theoretical physics to the binding love of a husband and wife that are beyond the empirical. People denied the existence of the Okapi for many years though many people had claimed to have seen it. Why was it denied? Because every credible person knew that no such creature existed. It was clearly the in the realm of fantasy, and yet we now know that it does in fact exist. Miracles by nature can only be observed by those who happen to be there to observe them, and they cannot be empirically explained and prove or else they cease to be miracles. This is not the only argument, however, that is used to attack the miraculous events described in scripture.

Argument 2:

  • Premise: Those that testify to the miracles in scripture are unreliable because they were looking for miracles and were not observing subjective.
  • Reasoning: Those that look for miracles will find them, though they would not have found them if they were not looking for them.
  • The Problem: If looking for something disqualifies one from being credible then are the only credible discoveries those that are found by pure chance and happenstance?

Events of a miraculous nature have been testified throughout human existence from our very earliest records. Some miracles have more documentation to them than many ancient events we consider facts, and even today accounts of miracles in day-to-day life are not unheard of. I myself have witnessed several “miraculous” events in my years on this earth, but of course none of these are acceptable to the free-thinker.  The common dismissal of these claims is to dismiss the ancient man as a superstitious creature who lacked scientific understanding of the universe, but when one questions why we are to assume ancient man was superstitious the answer is usually that he attested to miracles. This logic is used even today every time a miraculous event occurs, one cannot attest to a miracle without being labeled superstitious and stupid based on the presupposition that belief in miracles is superstitious and stupid. This creates a circular logical fallacy where if one was to witness a miracle one could never attest to it because by attesting to the validity of the miracle one was also dismissing his own credibility.

To those people I raise this counter argument:

Counter Argument 2:

  • Premise: Those that testify to the existence of scientific laws are unreliable because they were looking for scientific laws and were not observing subjectively.
  • Reasoning: Those that look for laws of nature will find them, though they would not have found them if they were not looking for them.
  • The Problem: If one never supposed that the universe was bound by laws of nature then would have never discovered any of the laws of physics, chemistry, or many of the mathematical principles.

Is the assumption that the universe is somehow innately bound by physically consistent laws of nature really more logical than the assumption that God could involve himself in history through miraculous means. The only reason I can find that one is readily accepted and one is so cautiously denied is because one is testable and the other is not. We cannot invoke a miracle any time we wish, but to test whether gravity is consistent, one only needs to drop something from a height. To assume that because something is not testable it cannot be true is scientism, which is one of the most closed-minded views a man could take. To assume that his senses and logical reasoning are the only masters of truth in the universe is arrogance to the highest degree. This also becomes problematic when one raises the question of why the universe is bound to certain physical laws of nature. The scientismist (if that is even a world) would most likely attempt to dismiss the question without providing an answer while the monotheist could point to a grand designer.

Notice I am not writing this to attack science, but scientism. Science is a wonderful thing that explores the inner workings of the grand design. Scientism is the denial of all empirically unprovable aspects of life. Where science would look at a miracle and say “We cannot prove, test, or recreate that instance” scientism would look at a miracle and say “This cannot be!”

So why do I claim to believe in the miraculous events attributed to Christ? Because I find the testimony of these events both credible and highly likely. After Christ’s crucifixion the twelve men who had followed Christ (that were said to have run and hid during his death and burial) somehow became so convinced that they had seen the resurrected Christ that they spread his gospel all over the world. These men would rather die horrific deaths (which almost all of them did) rather than deny the truth of the risen Lord. This is not something one does on a whim, these men believed with all their heart and soul that Christ was risen and sin defeated.

Look a the life of Saul of Tarsus who by his own account and the account of Luke was a persecutor of the faith and a killer of Christians. Saul has a miraculous encounter on the road to Damascus that convinced him that the people he was so eagerly killing were actually the proclaimers of the true gospel of God. After changing his name to Paul this “Jew among Jews” whom had lived by the Torah and avidly fought against the “heresy” of Christianity, now became its biggest avocate. He planted churches all across the world and did a complete 180 turn form a life of self-righteous legalism to a servant like devotion to God and an advocate of the spiritual freedom found in Christ.

In the first few centuries Christians were fed to lions in colosseums, crucified in the emperor’s gardens, and burned alive or stoned for their refusal to deny the miraculous and life changing power of Christ. Even today there are thousands (possibly millions) of Christians all over the globe who would rather die than deny the miraculous and radical God-man who was Jesus the Christ. Considering that only around 3% of the world’s population outright denies the existence of the supernatural, maybe it is time for Free Thinkers to free up their minds a bit.

 

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4 thoughts on “Faith Within Reason: The Closed Minds of Free Thinkers

  1. As one of the “free thinkers” you’re writing about in this post, I find the arguments that you put forth rather amusing from the empirical point of view.

    “Those that testified to the miracles in scripture are unreliable because they are superstitious and unscientific.”

    This isn’t an empirical argument because it’s untestable and not quantifiable. A truly empirical person wouldn’t try to find fault with the people who witnessed the alleged miracle, but rather the miracle itself.

    “Those that testify to the miracles in scripture are unreliable because they were looking for miracles and were not observing subjective.”

    Again, this cannot be tested or quantified. It’s not an empirical argument and it never will be.

    I guess ultimately I find it curious that you appear to be saying that having a worldview wherein one only believes what is observable, tangible, or testable and possessing abstract thinking ability are mutually exclusive. If that were the case, I don’t think I’d be able to enjoy watching a movie, since they all require some degree of suspended disbelief due to the presentation of a fictional reality. And I certainly shouldn’t be able to enjoy Harry Potter, right? I guess all I’m saying is that concrete beliefs do not preclude abstract or imaginary thinking. As an empiricist, I understand all of the arguments that people make for the existence of a deity. But I would never say that just because I can’t prove that something exists conclusively means that it doesn’t. Because that isn’t what science is.

    There’s this idea that science is a very conclusive field. It’s really not. Contrary to popular belief, nothing in science is ever written in stone. Something is only considered to be ‘true’ if it can be demonstrated and repeated. But theories are being abandoned, added to, and merged every year as new discoveries are made. True scientists never deal in certainty; they only deal with probability.

    • Thank you very much for your reply. You have some very good points here and I thank you for your critique.

      You stated:

      “I guess all I’m saying is that concrete beliefs do not preclude abstract or imaginary thinking. As an empiricist, I understand all of the arguments that people make for the existence of a deity. But I would never say that just because I can’t prove that something exists conclusively means that it doesn’t. Because that isn’t what science is.”

      Which leads me to say that I would not consider you the target of this post at all. In looking back over my post I can see that my purposes would have been served better had I been more clear as to whom I was addressing with “Free Thinkers.” The people I critique in this article are not the ones who simply do not believe, but rather those who will not consider testimony of others or the possibility that miraculous instances are possible, based on the fact that neither are explainable or testable.

      I tried to convey that idea when I said:

      “Notice I am not writing this to attack science, but scientism. Science is a wonderful thing that explores the inner workings of the grand design. Scientism is the denial of all empirically unprovable aspects of life. Where science would look at a miracle and say ‘We cannot prove, test, or recreate that instance’ scientism would look at a miracle and say ‘This cannot be!'”

      You also said:

      “There’s this idea that science is a very conclusive field. It’s really not. Contrary to popular belief, nothing in science is ever written in stone. Something is only considered to be ‘true’ if it can be demonstrated and repeated. But theories are being abandoned, added to, and merged every year as new discoveries are made. True scientists never deal in certainty; they only deal with probability.”

      Which I completely agree with. If you care to read more of my thoughts on this. I addressed this very thing in my previous post “Faith Within Reason: Charles H. Townes on Faith in Scientific Thought.”

      From what I can tell we both have a similar understanding of most things. I am not anti-empiricism or anti-science. I simply find that I do not accept empiricism is the only means to truth and I avidly reject sciencism (which is not to say I reject science), and based on your answers I would not consider you one who subscribes to it either. If I misinterpreted anything you said please let me know. Once again, thank you for reading and taking the time to comment.

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